Upgrading system. Your advice please :o)

By Nazobyte · 46 replies
Aug 24, 2002
  1. Ok so ive worked my *** off for the last 6 weeks of my summer break from College, and now i am in the rare situation of having a bit of cash in my pocket. Up utill recently, my system has handled everything like a dream, and any game i throw into it. But I recently bought a few games (GTAIII, SOFII Double Helix, & Giants Citizen Kabuto) and they all seem to desire a bit more system beefage than my comp can muster.
    Now ive got about £400.00 to spend (approx: $608)
    Ive been thinking about an overhaul, something like this:

    1. New Mobo (with AGP)
    2. New G-card (64 or 128MB)
    3. New CPU

    Here is my current (and somewhat ageing) syst spec:

    Pentium III ~787 Mhz
    192MB RAM
    3d prophet II MX
    Creative Soundblaster PCI 512
    Seagate 40GB 7200rpm
    Samsung 12x DVD ROM
    Freecom NEC CD RW
    OS: Windoze ME
    Philips 107 17" Monitor
    Lucent 56k WinModem
    Cant find make of mobo, but it is an Intel one with *no* AGP slots (grrrmph!)

    I would like some reccomendations for all three components stated, or even a different combination of upgrades that you think would be the most wise choices for me.
    If you could put yourself in my position and tell me what you would spend this dosh on for a good performance boost i would be very thankful.

    I *mainly* play games on my system, but I dont just want to get a powerful graphics card alone cos I will also be continuing to use my PC for many other things such as college work & www.

    Look forward to your suggestions :)
  2. Tweakster

    Tweakster TS Enthusiast Posts: 199

    Ok You have Loads enough there.

    A new Motherboard will cost u 60-100 Quid. If your looking at a new MB, u might need to update ram though. The guys will be able to say more here! IM guessing that 787mhz your Processer is overclocked?

    Graphics card wise u should get a AGP 2x or 4x Slot in new motherboard. Ati card seems to have problems with GTA3 though that might be patched out soon. So a Geforce4 (NOT MX) should do the job but im having no problems with my Geforce3 yet.

    http://www.pcindex.co.uk Should find u a good deal thugh shop around.
  3. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    Here's my sole opinion on what you should get:

    From the TS Pricewatch :D

    ASUS A7V333 - $107
    Athlon XP 2200+ Retail - $175
    Radeon 9700 128MB - $349
    256mb PC2700 (333MHz) - $62

    Total - $692 :haha:

    There's a first try for everything...

    Even though that was a little much, it would basically be a dream system.

    I would reccomend buying everything but the video card for now; then waiting for the price to go down on the 9700.

    Or you could buy an 8500 now, and save some money.
    This seems to be a good one; and it's only $120.
    Plus the total would only be $460, which leaves $148 for other stuff :D
  4. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    Or you could go Intel:

    P4 2.53GHz - $250
    ASUS P4S533 - $95
    256MB DDR333 - $62

    This leaves $200 for a video card
    GeForce4 Ti4400 128MB - $199.99 :D
    Radeon 8500 128MB - $119, and $80 for more stuff (like more DDR)
  5. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    I'd also consider getting rid of that wannabe OS you have there, get Win2K or XP, anything other than ME.

    Otherwise it looks like good recommendations, though I don't know how hardcore you get with your gaming, so those cards mentioned may be overkill unless you are a hardcore gamer. I'm just mentioning this because you could go with a little less video card an get a little more DDR.
  6. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    Been researching some Hardware

    Ive done a little research into components yesterday, and ive got some idea of what i want now:

    Im quite a hardcore gamer, i own every decent new game that comes out and its the main thing that i do on my PC, allthough like i said, I dont wanna go all out on the very latest graphics card that might cost me £300 or more. The reason is that for the relatively small, hardly noticable technological advances the latest cards make over their predecessors it isnt worth paying the extra money. Also graphics cards crash in price faster than anything these days so i wont be buying pinnacle range gear that i could get for 2/3 the price come 3 months time. Ide rather wait, but for now i think ide settle for something around the Ge-force 4 Ti 4200 which looks like quite a good card, or maybe a ATI Radeon 8500 or 9700 which look almost the closest to rival it. Anything thats almost double or more the power of my Prophet II mx would suffice. Also of course this is a PCI Card and so ive gotta take the AGP thing into consideration, as i intend also to buy an AGP 4x Motherboard.
    Talkin of the Mobo, i have found some nice ones that i am considering:

    Gigabyte GA-7vRXP : Socket A; Supporting-3GB :grinthumb
    Albatron PX845E : Socket 578; Supporting-2GB
    Epox EP4G4A : Socket 578; Supporting-2GB
    QDI Superb 4-A : Socket 578; Supporting-2700 RAM

    I havent really looked at any reviews for Asus or Abit Mobo's yet, but i know that they make good boards so i may consider one of them yet. Im keepin my options open cos i want the parts covered in my PC warranty at my local PC World and they of course will have limited selections, so im gonna make a list of the best.

    Obviously my Mobo will dictate whether i go AMD or Pentium, dont know much about current range of CPU's though?

    I didnt realise that the latest mobo's hold so much God-Damn-RAM :eek: :D So im considering more of that, DDR of course, but which is the best make??? I know that our PC world stocks these ones:

    • OLIVETTI Memory
    • NEC Memory
    • IBM Desktop Memory Options
    • Truedata
    • MEMORY Gold

    Im happy with my current OS Storm, it gives me no trouble at all, this is why i cant understand why everyone slag's WME off :confused: I like it so ill be keeping it on my Hard-drive for upgraded system.

    Nope, its advertised as a 750Mhz but in system information it seems to be 787 Mhz. Unless PC World are sellin overclocked CPU's in their PC's :suspicious

    Anyway, further suggestions are welcome, keep em comin folks, n thanks for the input so far, it will all be considered :giddy:
  7. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    In you memory rundown, you failed to mention Crucial®, which is IMO the best. You'll also want to note that as long as you are staying with WinME, you are pretty much limited to 512MB of RAM because of the way Win9x/ME handles copious amounts of RAM. When you have an excess of 512MB it can actually hinder performance, making the system slower. So until you upgrade the OS, just don't go over 512MB.
  8. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    Im not sure if my local PC World stocks that type, thats why i didnt list it, but ill keep it in mind thanks, ill note it down.

    Sheesh, i didnt know this, that might just change my mind then. I can borrow a of a copy of Win XP fairly easily from a friend who's offered before, but i once ran a XP compatibility test for my system and alot of my software and stuff wasnt supported. Also i hear that XP doesnt run alot of older games, of which i own alot that i still like to play. Hmmm, im gonna have to think this one over, i have definately been dying to try out XP cos ive heard so many good things about it.

    Thanks for the input.
  9. Tweakster

    Tweakster TS Enthusiast Posts: 199

    Dont Buy Memory from PCWORLD its very overpriced the last time i looked.
  10. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    Yeh, ive been lookin on the UK PC World component centre web-site, and it seems that the prices are pretty steep, and also the choice range they have sucks in most component departments :(

    Sod it, im gonna buy off the net, probably straight from the manufacturers because in the reviews that ive read in my magazines the components seem to be well priced direct.

    Still mulling over the Processor thing though, and so obviously i havent arrived at a final decision on mobo. I wont be buying anything over 2Ghtz. What do you reccommend? Is an AMD xp2100 around the same for performance as the P4 2.0Ghz? Are Pentiums generally the better option?
  11. JAV

    JAV TS Rookie Posts: 210


    It's all going to hinge on the mobo. That is going to depend on the form factor for the case you choose/have. You also need to find out if your present HDD is ATA-66 or UATA-100 supported for the new board.

    You could consider a RAID board & run 2 HDD's, one (present) & one w/XP on it. I agree w/the DDR & the Ti 4200 chioces. I can also understand your dilema on Intel ($tability) vs AMD (tweekable & inexpensive).

    There is also the issue of PSU wattage. You may need a new one & better cooling (case & CPU wise).

    Download this: Fresh Diagnose www.freshdevices.com & it should give you your present hardware/system specs.

    Here's a 'bare bones' system that I put in a P4 1.5 400mhz FSB, 256 PC2100 DDR & a 60gb WD UATA-100 HDD w/a 300w PSU: http://www.ikonpc.com/smoreinfo.asp?iid=680 for ~$418 USD. It has a Soyo board w/a VIA chipset & RAID controller. You can configure systems the way you want & this is just one I thought you might like.

  12. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    I dont want to buy a new system, just replace some components of my current one. I am still under a warranty, and dont fancy attempting upgrades myself so i shall stick with current machine to be safe.

    I downloaded and ran FreshDiagnose (good free util :grinthumb) and looked at my HDD but i cant see anything about ATA-66 or UATA-100, allthough my HDD is quite a new one. Cant you use almost any Hard-drive on most mobo's???
    I am also confused as to where (in FreshDiagnose), that i find my current mobo details? is it under 'Hardware System' --> 'Busses'? Is it the Device name? Can i find out the form-factor?

    As for having two hard-drives, i have got another one layin around but my case wasnt big enough to get two in according to the guys at 'PC World'.
    Im quite sure i have an ATX case cos ive only had my System nearly 2 years so the form factor thing should be ok i think cos most mobo's are ATX these days i think, arent they?

    I think will be stickin with a Pentium 4 2Ghz on the processor thing.

    Thanks for your comments...
  13. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

    Yeah, all IDE drives should work in today's IDE controllers. SCSI drives with SCSI controllers, of course ;)
    Case isn't big enough? :haha: :haha:
    Take a look at my case - minitower ATX. See how my hdds are set up. The other is on top of the DVD drive ;)
    I don't see any problems with it, as the machine isn't a laptop that gets moved every now and then.
  14. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    Nice one

    Haahaa, nice one Mictlantecuhtli :haha: I like the improvisation. I think the reason the guy couldnt do it at PCW was because he couldnt figure out a way to do it securely on a bracket in the small space. Maybe i will just chuck my other 20GB HDD into my machine eventually, it does feel like a waste cos its been sittin in a box for months doing nothing.
  15. JAV

    JAV TS Rookie Posts: 210


    I thought FD had the ATA info, oops! :rolleyes: Too many diagnostic tools on my desktop. The point is: upgrading the CPU/RAM isn't going to help much if the data transfer rate from the HDD is ATA-66. I'll look thru my tools for the proggie that does give ATA info. (I know it's one of these)

    Form factor: Micro ATX, UATX, Flex ATX & ATX. Since you say you don't have a AGP slot & PC World said your case is too small for a 2nd HDD: I'll surmise you do not have an ATX board.

    PC World should have the ATA-66/100 info & the form factor info. For your board # & mfg: http://www.powerleap.com/ click on 'Quick Upgrade Finder'.

    I agreed on the Ti 4200 & if you look here: http://www.pny.com/home/products/Vcard_ti4200.cfm a 350 WATT PSU is recommended. I think hanging it out the back like Mict did will void your warrantee w/PC World anyway & I highly doubt you have a 350 watt PSU now.

    Your case was designed for your system & the heat it generates. Upgrading the CPU, RAM & vid card is going to take more power & create more heat. Stuffing a bunch of components in a tiny case to save ~$50 is going to create problems, IMHO.

    How about some specs from PC World on what you do have. Do you even know if an AGP slot will be accessible in your present case?

    No 'advice', just some things you may want to consider. :grinthumb

  16. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    Thanks for further input

    Well i guess i dont currently have an ATX board then :(

    I tried out that crackin powerleap site link you sent, heres the mobo nfo it gave me:

    Manufacturer ------------------- Intel Corporation
    Model (revision) --------------- Whitney System CR Platform (None)
    Chipset (revision)-------------- Intel i810E (3)
    Southbridge -------------------- Intel 82801AA (ICH)
    BIOS Brand --------------------- Phoenix Technologies LTD
    BIOS Version ------------------- 6.00
    BIOS Date ---------------------- 09/05/2000
    Display adapter Manufacturer --- Intel
    Model (revision) --------------- 82810E Graphics Controller (3)

    Also discovered that my current RAM Modules are SDRam (suxorz). Will my SDRam and some new DDR work in harmony together on my new mobo? Im guessing probably not :punch:

    The Ti 4200 card looks as though it should suit me fine. I like the way on that site link you sent, one of the top 'features & Benefits' they list says: "Unique maroon-colored card". Oh ive just *gotta* get one now :D :stickout:

    I would also like to change this poxy case, but as i say im still under that warranty, which is becoming more & more of a hinderence :mad: It is, as you say, no doubt gonna restrict my options for these upgrades :dead:
    I cant get any nfo from pc world at this current time about my system cos its about 2 hours journey from where i live to our outlet, so i guess im gonna have to be makin my choices on the day i go for my upgrades (cos my dad does the drivin and he will only do it once in a blue moon for me)
  17. JAV

    JAV TS Rookie Posts: 210

    I still have not found that proggie I have that gives the ATA info. No biggie tho' what you have supplied is giving me a very good idea what you do have. :)

    1st suggestion: go to Intel & get the "Application Accelerator" & the "Installation .inf" so it will install. All the details are @ Intel, it is for the i810E & it will make a difference. http://downloadfinder.intel.com//sc...oductID=816&OSFullName=Windows*+Me&submit=Go!
    Get the top ones on each page. Whitney is the onboard graphic chip, btw.

    SDRAM & DDR > no. There are boards that accept both, but not working together.

    Altho there are AGP slot, 133/266/400 FSB mobo's that will fit your case: I really don't think your PSU is going to do what it needs to with your planned upgrades. An AGP vid card w/a PCI modem & sound card in a small case also makes for heat problems. :(

    If it helps: I'm in the EXACT same boat! i810e, no AGP slot, small case & weak PSU. :blackeye: [At least you have a PIII, I'm on a Celeron]

    I can help you get some more out of what you have if you'd like. In the meantime we can both look at ATX cases & good PSU's, because that is where we both need to start, IMO. ;)

    I hear ya on the "Unique maroon-colored card". :rolleyes:

    Maybe a case, mobo & CPU & use the spare HDD & the vid card & sound card you have. Then sell the PIII system (it has integrated vid & sound) w/o monitor & get a Ti4200 & a CDRW & DVD w/that $$$. :cool:

    Hope this helps,
  18. Greeno

    Greeno TS Rookie Posts: 281

    If it were me :]

    having used it at work for some time now, have a look at the GA-7VAXP it's a Gigabyte mobo, supports AGP 8x and DDR 400 Support :) it's a v.nice board indeed, i've never had any issues with it, it comes with 3x IEE1394 Ports (Firewire) and some USB 2.0 ports to boot!

    I'd go for a Ti4200 too, that should cost you a little over £100, i'd look into some decent DDR, and bigger case if you needed it (and PSU) and finally an XP CPU.

    XP's are cheap :] and fast

    ......just my 2 cents worth tho :]
  19. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

    Now I noticed you have Samsung 40GB hdd too. I have 5400 and 7200 rpm models, both 40GB, and they are identified, and work as, UDMA-100 drives.
  20. Greeno

    Greeno TS Rookie Posts: 281

    "I still have not found that proggie I have that gives the ATA info. No biggie tho' what you have supplied is giving me a very good idea what you do have.

    1st suggestion: go to Intel & get the "Application Accelerator" "

    - Jav wrote that :p

    I can't be bothered to quote properly :D

    but if you want all your ATA Info, run the IAA after you've installed it, it tells you all you need to know :)
  21. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    I am in complete agreement with Tweakster on this?
    Do you have a credit card or Visa/Delta or something? If you don't can you get your parents to buy stuff over the internet for you and pay them back afterwards? The reason I say this is because the memory prices of PCWorld are vastly inflated. If you can buy over the web check out www.scan.co.uk (especially their today only offers where some real bargains can be had). Also www.dabs.co.uk. I have purchased from both these online shops and haven't experienced any problems at all. I would recommend this over PCworld or any other large chain. I bought a base unit from PCworld about a year ago and it was "completely upgradable". Well it was until I tried to put a GF3 in it. I found out the Gigabyte board in it couldn't support the GF3... So I only buy CDRs and accessories from PCworld nowadays. They are getting better with their component section they have added to their stores and some of their motherboard prices are reasonable in comparison to what they could be had for online.

    P4, if your looking at the latest northwoods, is still just a little ahead of AMD in performance but AMD aren't far behind and with the price difference being quite large at some points in the performance scale I myself would probably stick with AMD.
    I have recently been considering the move from 266DDR system to a 333DDR system but since the AMD XP Barton core processor supporting 333FSB (front side bus) is on the horizon (October) I think I might wait a while longer. Also the newer video cards coming out are starting to show support for AGP 8X so I would be looking for a board with that and USB2.0 and ATA133 support at least. Some MSI boards can be had which offer excellent features for the money. You can check out some reviews here at techspot to get an idea of the quality of MSI as a company. Personally the next upgrade I am looking at is either an AMD XP 2xxx+ with 333FSB, Motherboard with 333DDR and NV30 (next nvidia card) or 9700. Although I'm still tempted to try and hold out until the 64bit CPUs come out at the beginning of next year. A 2Ghz+ AMD Opteron (Clawhammer) would be a better long term investment than the XP... I'll wait and see how much more taxed my system gets with DOOMIII and UT2003...

    Hope this information helps with your purchase decisions...
  22. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    Not that long ago I priced a barebones system for a friend.
    I was considering it myself as well :)

    Asus A7V-333 viaKT333 + USB2 + ATA133 84.01
    AMD Athlon XP 2000+ (1.67GHz) Palomino Core 104.81
    64MB MSI GeForce 4 Ti4200 with TV Out 109.28
    256Mb PC2700 (PC333) DDR Memory (Major) 49.94
    Total : £347.94

    This would be covered by your budget...
    or priced from www.scan.co.uk today:

    MSI LT4 Ultra DDR333 KT400 x8AGP +USB2+ATA133+6Ch Sound 92.82
    AMD Athlon XP 2200+ (1.80GHz) "Thoroughbred" Core 137.73
    64MB MSI GeForce 4 Ti4200 with TV Out 114.56
    256Mb PC2700 (PC333) DDR Memory (Major) 49.35
    Total : £394.46

    Which would be a good system as it gives you future X8AGP support.

    Or the P4 equivalent:

    2.0 GHz Intel Pentium® 4 CPU 512k Cache 9 (Northwood) * S478 * 137.71
    Asus P4S-533 SiS 645DX DDR P4 Mobo 74.00 86.95
    64MB MSI GeForce 4 Ti4200 with TV Out 114.56
    256Mb PC2700 (PC333) DDR Memory (Major) 49.35
    Total : £388.57

    But performance wise the 2200+ will outperform the P4 2.0Ghz.
    You can see where the two competing CPUs sit on the scale of performance in the benchmarks in this Tomshardware Article about the AMD XP 2600+.
    The 2200+ lives up to its performance rating in some benchmarks as it sits about the same level as the more expensive 2.2Ghz P4 (£175)
  23. Greeno

    Greeno TS Rookie Posts: 281

    2 things :)

    I totally agree with Arris, with the online credit card thing, also if you do buy online with a CC, you'll have cover too, rather than, order...send a cheque and scratch your head, and wonder where you goods ever did get too..

    the other... given my job, and the people I have to deal with... I'm almost certain that NV30 won't see the light of day until Q1 2003 at the very earliest (which alot of you guys already knew i'm sure), and it'll also be named "GeForce 6", I've got pretty reliable sources that whole heartedly lead me to believe a GF5 is coming first, and it'll be a modded version of the Ti4600 with support for AGP 8x, but the only thing I don't know is it's status as far as DirectX 9 support :)

    but I guess if Arris meant next card, based on a new standard of manufacturing then he's spot on, but there will be a stop gap measure before NV30 i'm 100% lead to believe

    .....only time will tell i guess..
  24. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    whew, its been a while...

    :) Started back @ College this week so ive only just now got round to replying, so here goes...

    Ive found out that i will be doing a unit on my IT Course this term where i get to build my own system (which i will have to pay for), so i am now looking forward to using this opportunity to build my new system with a little help and good advice from a qualified lecturer. Which is great cos i have some knowledge, but ive never built a system before. We also wont actually be building untill mid-term so it gives me bags of time to research, and also of course to let those prices fall :D
    I was very happy to see that Pentium prices have fallen quite dramatically this week cos of the release of the new P4 2.8G :cool: That should mean that i can pick up a very tasty processor for my cash now :slurp:

    Ok, got these and installed, thanks JAV ;)

    Ok sure, what do you reccomend?

    How do you mean? By overclocking?

    As tempting and as much of a good idea as that sounds, i think ill keep my current system, get a new case and build.
  25. Nazobyte

    Nazobyte TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 20

    I listed this board on previous post as one of the ones i have taken fancy too, it has great reviews!
    Thanks also for the input on finding out my ATA info too.

    Thanks for the advice on the drives Mictlantecuhtli, guess mine are UDMA-100 then ;) I shall still check it out though

    Thanks also to Arris for all nfo, i shall consider it all, and yes i do have a MasterCard so i will buy over the net as it seems to be the cheapest way.
    The Toms Hardware article you gave me link for was particularly interesting and very helpful, many thanks for that, and thanks for all your system suggestions, i will take it all into consideration :)
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